Phase 5: 12th century  
Industrial activities on open ground Matrix Diagram

There is a striking difference between the Phase 4 and Phase 5 land use of the area; the Phase 4 buildings were demolished and the area became open land, which was unused until the late 12th century. The area was then divided into two; the westernmost portion was used for industrial activities, ovens and dumping, while the eastern part was primarily used for dumping, although several linear features and fence lines criss-crossed its north end.


Initially all of the buildings from Phase 4 (Buildings H, K and L) were demolished, their re-usable timbers were robbed out, and the resultant holes backfilled. These features contained 12th century pottery. Following demolition, the excavation area was then abandoned until the late 12th century. From the late 12th century onwards the main feature on the site was the building platform to the east, originally constructed in Phase 3. There was a noticeable difference between the land use on the building platform and to the west of it.

On the western side of the site a number of intercutting pits were dug, which were not excavated as they were beyond the limit of excavation. Along the Walmgate street frontage (Area Q) there was a sequence of hearths, industrial dumps and levelling deposits (40944095, 4098, 41064107 and 4078). These features contained pottery of the 12th or 13th century and also large quantities of burnt material. Deposit 4094 contained copper alloy wire, an iron nail and an iron hinge pivot; both the iron objects were coated with hammerscale suggesting that metalworking was being undertaken close by. The dumps also contained small amounts of domestic refuse as well as a bone spindle whorl and a copper alloy mount (SF01187).

The industrial dumps on the Walmgate street frontage can be related to further levelling activities across the northern part of the site. These consisted of large spreads of domestic rubbish mixed with smaller amounts of metalworking debris including 2155, 2683, 2685, 3074 and 31693170. All of these were dated by pottery to the 12th or 13th century. Artefacts recovered from these deposits included a piece of fired clay interpreted as a mould or furnace structure fragment, iron nails, an iron smithing punch, slag, a hone stone, a glass bead and tile. A spread of ash, charcoal and orange sand (3224), located on the west side of the levelling material, may suggest the extension of industrial activity into this area.

Above a levelling deposit in the north-western corner of the excavation area a double oven (32453246) was constructed. It was impossible to tell if these two ovens were contemporaneous or superimposed as they were not excavated. At the eastern end of these ovens, a stoke-pit (3244) was dug to supply the eastern oven (3245), and possibly also the western oven (3246), with heat. The stoke-pit was half sectioned which revealed that it was edged with clay, within which was a lining of limestone fragments and cobbles. Several use deposits built up within the stoke-pit, one of which was environmentally sampled and contained charcoal identified as oak and hazel, with occasional hazelnut shell and traces of charred and uncharred weed seeds. There was no evidence to indicate what these ovens were used for. It is highly unlikely that they were kilns as there were no pottery waster dumps close by. Perhaps they were utilised for a clean process such as bread baking. One stoke-pit use deposit contained pottery of the 12th century.

To the south of the double oven, initial dumps of occupation material were sealed by a cobbled hearth on top of which was a charcoal layer. The charcoal was found to consist of grass and cereal stem fragments. Further dumps of material were built up to form a mound in this area, including contexts 2940 and 3004. These appear to be formed from domestic refuse (such as butchery waste from context 2940) and fuel residues, perhaps from the firing of the ovens to the north. The deposits contained pottery of the 13th century and deposit 3004 contained a fragment of stone basin (see architectural fragments report). An environmental sample from 2940 confirmed the mixed nature of these deposits (see sample SA00067).

The double oven was demolished and robbed of useful materials at the end of the phase, perhaps in the early 13th century. The robbing cut was levelled off with several dump deposits which contained a short cross cut halfpenny (dated 1180–1247) as well as a socketed piece of antler tine and a lava quern fragment.

On the eastern side of the excavation area Building H and the fences behind it were demolished and robbed out. Daub associated with this process may suggest that the building was originally coated in this waterproofing material. A number of pits and levelling deposits superseded the demolition and robbing; they contained pottery of the late 12th or early 13th century. The levelling seems to have consisted primarily of domestic waste. A bone horn core recovered from these deposits may suggest horn working in the area and other finds included a copper alloy fitting, slag, an iron arrowhead, nails and an iron bar.

Two linear features (2906 and 2978) were then inserted. The western linear feature (2906) was interpreted as a gully aligned north-north-east to south-south-west, and appeared to terminate at its northern end. The easternmost linear feature was a gully (2978), between 1.5m and 2m to the east of 2906, and was aligned north-east to south-west. It curved slightly eastwards and also terminated at its north end. These gullies may have defined a short stretch of alleyway, aligned at right angles to the Walmgate street frontage, or may have been part of a structure, such as a barn. Both gullies were backfilled and a number of post-holes (2976, 2979, 3047, 3066 and 3073) were inserted within the easternmost gully and at the north end of the western gully. These appear to have replaced the original structure or redefined the alley. The partial nature of the evidence in this area makes it difficult to interpret further. The post-holes were then infilled.

Subsequently a large deep linear cut (2971) was dug across the northern end of the gullies, roughly parallel to Walmgate. This may have been inserted deliberately to obliterate the alley, redefine boundaries in the area, or partially to rob the earlier structure. The feature was not completely excavated as it extended beyond the limits of excavation; it is therefore impossible to ascertain its function. A sub-square pit (3017 and 3046) was dug to the south of 2971. Both of these features were then backfilled, the ground levelled and the area used for dumping. A single-sided composite comb fragment, a hone stone and a lava quern fragment were recovered from these dumps and imply mixed domestic use nearby. Two patches of burnt clay, including 2442, represent the latest activity on the eastern side of the excavation area. These may be interpreted as hearths, though it was unclear if they were internal or external hearths.

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The excavation of a broken pottery pitcher neck

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Copper alloy mount (SF01187)

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X-ray of iron punch SF01312
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Phyllite hone stone SF01385
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Glass bead SF01001
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Oven or kiln stoke-pit 3244 looking north-west

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View of oven bases and stoke-pit (3244–3246) during excavation, looking south-east

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X-ray of iron arrowhead SF01580
© Copyright York Archaeological Trust 2003